Crossing State Lines: Interstate Travel in New England During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated October 22, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its threat to public health from in-person contact, numerous states have instituted requirements or other guidance for travelers from out of state. A summary for each state in New England is outlined below. Our state-by-state summary of business reopenings more generally throughout New England is available here.

Both the federal government and the states have the authority to impose quarantines and travel restrictions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents. While the authorities vary from state to state, violating such orders is generally a misdemeanor criminal offense. We note that the Department of Homeland Security has again extended its limitation on travel between Canada and the U.S. at ports of entry along the US-Canada border, permitting only essential travel through November 21.  Similarly, Canada continues to restrict entry into Canada from the U.S. to essential travel and immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The CDC’s guidance on what to consider before traveling within the United States during the pandemic includes the following: whether you are traveling to a hotspot, whether where you live or your destination requires quarantine after traveling, and determining whether you live with someone who is vulnerable.

Connecticut

On September 16, Governor Ned Lamont issued Order 9C, amending the state’s previous travel restrictions under Order 7III. Under the new order, effective September 18, the travel restrictions still apply to anyone traveling into Connecticut from a state that has a new daily positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, but now also include international travelers entering from countries for which the CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice.  All such travelers must self-quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state or country. As of this update, exempt states include all of New England except for Rhode Island, as well as, California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon,  Washington (state), Washington, D.C., and the US Virgin Islands. However, on October 20, Governor Lamont joined the governors of New York and New Jersey in urging residents to avoid unnecessary or non-essential travel in the tri-state area, even though technically not subject to the quarantine requirements.

Alternatively, travelers are exempt from the quarantine requirement if they obtain a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to arriving in Connecticut in lieu of the 14-day quarantine only if they are unable to quarantine for the required 14 day period, but must have written proof of such a result. If the result of the test is still pending upon entry to the state, the traveler must quarantine until the negative result is obtained.

The Order applies to all travelers, including residents returning to Connecticut from an impacted state, and business and pleasure travelers. However, it does not apply to travelers coming into the state following only a layover or pass-through of less than 24 hours in an impacted state or country, and exempts essential workers provided the travel was work-related, although additional protocols for essential workers may be issued.

Travelers must complete a Travel Health Form prior to or upon arrival in the state. Failure to self-quarantine or complete the Travel Health Form may result in a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation.

Order 9C also includes enforcement provisions, subjecting any traveler who refuses or fails to self-quarantine, submit a health travel form, or completes the form inaccurately to a civil penalty of $500 for each violation.

Maine

Unless one of the exemptions below applies, all travelers to Maine, including returning residents, must quarantine for 14 days. On June 8, Governor Mills announced via Order 57 the Keep Maine Healthy plan, which permits COVID-19 testing as an alternative to the 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers entering the state. Under the plan, adults who obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 test from a specimen taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival are not subject to the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine. Visitors are encouraged to get tested and receive their test results in their home state before traveling to Maine. Any individual who chooses to be tested upon arrival in Maine must quarantine while awaiting the results. A list of test sites is available here.

Residents of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Vermont are entirely exempt from Maine’s 14-day quarantine requirement (although it remains in effect for Rhode Island). Notably, Maine residents who visit an exempted state are not required to quarantine upon returning to Maine. Essential workers are also exempt from testing and quarantine requirements if they are traveling to Maine to perform essential work, or are from Maine and are traveling out-of-state for work and returning home.

Travelers who are not residents of Maine or exempted states will be asked to sign a Certificate of Compliance indicating that they have received a negative COVID-19 test result, that they will quarantine in Maine for 14 days, or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine. This compliance form must be provided to check in at all Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals, overnight camps, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb. Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of the negative test result upon request. Our detailed discussion of the plan is available here.

Enforcement of the state’s travel restrictions is pursuant to 37-B M.R.S. §786(1), which permits violators to be charged with a Class E crime that includes punishment of up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and the payment of civil damages to the State for its costs associated with testing, investigating, contact tracing, and otherwise determining the extent of COVID-19 transmission.

Massachusetts

Effective August 1, Order 45 requires all out of state (and international) travelers entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 rest result from a test administered within 72 hours prior to arrival in the state. If results from a test taken within 72 hours of arrival are not obtained by the time of arrival, the traveler must quarantine until the negative result is received. If traveling for less than 72 hours, the test cannot have been administered prior to leaving the state, and must be administered upon return. If traveling with children under 10 years of age, the child does not need a COVID-19 test; children over 11 years of age either need to be tested or quarantine for 14 days unless another exemption applies.  All entrants not meeting one of the exemptions below are also required to complete a Travel Form. Additional guidance is available here.

Travelers from “low risk” states are exempt from these requirements. A state is considered low risk if it has an average of fewer than 6 daily cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate below 5%, both measured as a 7-day rolling average. As of this update, exempt states include all of New England except for Rhode Island, as well as California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Washington (state), and Washington, D.C.. Also exempt are commuters, patients seeking or receiving medical treatment, military personnel, and workers providing critical infrastructure services. Please refer to our alert on this order for more information.

Failure to comply with this order may result in a $500 fine per day.

New Hampshire

Although there are no formal restrictions in place, New Hampshire asks anyone, including residents, coming into the state from areas outside New England to self-quarantine for a two-week period, regardless of the mode of transportation. Anyone traveling into New Hampshire from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island does not need to quarantine. Those with travel plans generally are referred to travel and quarantine guidance from the state’s department of public health.

However, the state’s universal guidelines, applicable generally to all businesses, requires employers to prohibit any employee from entering the workplace prior to completion of a 14-day self-quarantine upon entry or return to New Hampshire from any state outside New England. Our alert on the revised universal guidelines is available here

Rhode Island

Rhode Island continues Phase 3 of its reopening via Order 20-67. The order keeps in place the 14-day quarantine requirement for international travel into Rhode Island and for cross-border travel for non-work-related purpose from hotspots, states with a COVID-19 positivity rate over 5%. As of this update, the states not considered hotspots include all of New England,  Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Washington (state), and West Virginia.

However, travelers from these hotspots, as an alternative to quarantine, may provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Rhode Island. Visitors must quarantine while waiting for test results, and may only end the quarantine if a negative result is obtained. Upon arrival, visitors subject to these requirements must complete a certificate of compliance and an out-of-state travel screening form.

These self-quarantine and testing requirements do not apply to public health, public safety or healthcare workers, people traveling for medical treatment, to attend funeral or memorial services, to obtain necessities such as groceries, gas or medication, to drop off or pick up children from day care, summer camps, or to anyone who must work on their boats. Rhode Island’s quarantine order for those exposed to COVID (Order 20-71) is in effect through November 2.

Vermont

Vermont generally requires a 14-day quarantine for travelers coming from out of state. Travelers arriving to Vermont in a personal vehicle may complete either (1) a 14-day quarantine or (2) a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions. This requirement applies to Vermont residents returning from the state from any area not exempt, as described below.

Travelers arriving to Vermont via public transportation or from further than a direct car ride may complete either (1) a 14-day quarantine or (2) a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family, although travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site.

Amended Order 20 extended previous changes to Vermont’s quarantine requirements, exempting travelers from counties in New England and New York with 400 or fewer active cases of COVID-19 per million.  Addendum 1 to the Amended Order allows the Secretary of ACCD to permit travel without quarantine restrictions to and from counties of states in addition to New York and the New England states; that list of states now includes Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

People traveling for essential purposes are not required to quarantine. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, or to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate.  Notably, individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their place of employment are exempt from quarantine requirement.

For questions on how these orders affect your business, please contact firm attorneys Kathleen Hamann or Sarah Remes.